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Chandrayaan-3 Mission: Why Is India Trying To Become First Country To Land On Moons South Pole?

New Delhi: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is attempting to land its spacecraft Chandrayaan-3 on the moon’s south pole, a mission that could advance India’s space ambitions and expand knowledge of lunar water ice, potentially one of the moon’s most valuable resources.

Here’s what’s known about the presence of frozen water on the moon – and why space agencies and private companies see it as a key to a moon colony, lunar mining, and potential missions to Mars.


As early as the 1960s, before the first Apollo landing, scientists had speculated that water could exist on the moon. Samples the Apollo crews returned for analysis in the late 1960s and early 1970s appeared to be dry.

In 2008, Brown University researchers revisited those lunar samples with new technology and found hydrogen inside tiny beads of volcanic glass. In 2009, a NASA instrument aboard the Indian Space Research Organisation’s Chandrayaan-1 probe detected water on the moon’s surface.

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In the same year, another NASA probe that hit the south pole found water ice below the moon’s surface. An earlier NASA mission, the 1998 Lunar Prospector, had found evidence that the highest concentration of water ice was in the south pole’s shadowed craters.


Scientists are interested in pockets of ancient water ice because they could provide a record of lunar volcanoes, material that comets and asteroids delivered to Earth, and the origin of oceans.

If water ice exists in sufficient quantities, it could be a source of drinking water for moon exploration and could help cool equipment.

It could also be broken down to produce hydrogen for fuel and oxygen to breathe, supporting missions to Mars or lunar mining.

The 1967 United Nations Outer Space Treaty prohibits any nation from claiming ownership of the moon. There is no provision that would stop commercial operations.

A U.S.-led effort to establish a set of principles for moon exploration and the use of its resources, the Artemis Accords, has 27 signatories. China and Russia have not signed.


Attempted landings on the moon have failed before. Russia’s Luna-25 craft had been scheduled to land on the south pole this week but spun out of control on approach and crashed on Sunday.

The south pole – far from the equatorial region targeted by previous missions, including the crewed Apollo landings – is full of craters and deep trenches.

ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 mission is on track for an attempted landing on Wednesday, the space agency has said. A previous Indian mission failed in 2019 to safely land near the area targeted by Chandrayaan-3.

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Both the United States and China have planned missions to the south pole.


The ISRO has announced that its Chandrayaan-3 mission is poised to achieve a soft landing on the surface of the Moon on August 23. 

“This achievement marks a significant step forward for Indian Science, Engineering, Technology, and Industry, symbolising our nation’s progress in space exploration,” the Indian space agency said in an official statement.

The ISRO said that the soft landing of Chandrayaan-3 is a ‘monumental moment’ that not only fuels curiosity but also sparks a passion for exploration within the minds of our youth. 

“It generates a profound sense of pride and unity as we collectively celebrate the prowess of Indian science and technology. It will contribute to fostering an environment of scientific inquiry and innovation,” it added.


The ‘eagerly anticipated’ event will be broadcasted live on August 23, 2023, starting from 5:27 PM IST. The live coverage will be available via multiple platforms, including the ISRO’s official website, its official YouTube channel, its official Facebook page, and DD National TV channel.

The Indian space agency informed that the Chandrayaan-3 is set to land on the Moon on August 23, 2023, around 6:04 PM IST.

The ISRO also invited all schools and educational institutions nationwide to actively publicise this event among their students and faculty and organize the LIVE streaming of the Chandrayaan-3 soft landing within the premises.

Earlier in the day, the ISRO said it successfully reduced the orbit of the Chandrayaan-3 mission’s Lander Module (LM), further bringing it nearer to the moon. It informed that the LM would now undergo internal checks.

Post its launch on July 14, Chandrayaan-3 entered into the lunar orbit on August 5, following which orbit reduction manoeuvres were carried out on the satellite on August 6, 9, 14, and 16, ahead of the separation of both its modules on August 17.


The Chandrayaan-3 mission objectives are to demonstrate a safe and soft landing on the lunar surface, to demonstrate rover roving on the Moon, and to conduct in-situ scientific experiments. 

If everything goes according to the plan, India will become the fourth country in the world after the United States, Russia, and China, to land on the moon, and will be the only nation to touch the lunar south pole.

It is notable that ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 is a follow-on mission to Chandrayaan-2 to demonstrate end-to-end capability in safe landing and roving on the lunar surface.

The lunar south pole is of particular interest to scientists, who said that the permanently shadowed polar craters may contain water. The frozen water in the rocks could be transformed by future explorers into air and rocket fuel.


Earlier on Sunday, Russia’s robot lander the Luna-25 spacecraft crashed into the moon after it had spun into uncontrolled orbit, the country’s space agency Roscosmos said on Sunday.

“The apparatus moved into an unpredictable orbit and ceased to exist as a result of a collision with the surface of the moon,” the official statement from the agency read.

Roscosmos said it lost contact with the spacecraft on Saturday after it ran into trouble while preparing for its pre-landing orbit after reporting an ‘abnormal situation’ that its specialists were analysing.

“During the operation, an abnormal situation occurred on board the automatic station, which did not allow the maneuver to be performed with the specified parameters,” Roscosmos said.

The spacecraft was scheduled to land on the south pole of the moon on Monday, racing to land on Earth’s satellite ahead of India’s Chandrayaan.

The launch earlier this month was Russia’s first since 1976 when it was part of the Soviet Union.

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